Vanilla More precious than gold

Claire Bickle




Many spices we know so well today, such as pepper, cinnamon, tamarind, saffron, turmeric, paprika, were once more prized than gold. These were discovered in far off exotic lands, far away from the European population.

The earliest recordings of Vanilla usage appears to be around 1000AD, with the Totonac people of south eastern Mexico being the first recorded humans to discover the benefits and flavour of the Vanilla orchid pods.
Initially the Vanilla that made its way back to Europe was predominately used for perfumes and related products.

However, the Spanish conquistadors arrived in 1518 and soon recognised the amazing flavour of cacao drinks flavoured with Vanilla.

This spice is now found worldwide in almost every kitchen.

Ask the average person where do they think Vanilla comes from and you are generally met with a lot of ‘ums’ and ‘ahhs’ – most are completely unaware that this sensational flavour comes from the seed pod of an orchid plant.

Topics covered are:

  • Commercialisation
  • Botanical features
  • Culture
  • Propagation
  • Production of the Vanilla Bean
  • Harvesting and Preparing
  • Uses and Benefits

A recipe for Vanilla Bean & Mango Smoothie is available.

From a 4 page Feature Article in Issue Thirty Four
Dried Vanilla pods. Image George Gonthier Daintree Vanilla and Spice.
Flower of Vanilla planifolia.
Variegated leaf cultivar of Vanilla planifolia.
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Vegetable Hummingbird Sesbania grandiflora
Arno King


Vegetable Hummingbird, Agati or Sesban (Sesbania grandiflora) is another of those popular tropical vegetables which grows as a tree. It is a very low maintenance and undemanding plant that produces large quantities of delicious produce – in this case flowers, beans and foliage.

If you have visited South East Asia or India, you are likely to have seen the white pea flowers or soft ferny leaves at the vegetable markets. You may have even eaten it in a stew, stir fry or curry.

The flowers are the most popular part of the plant. The flowers of the white form are generally favoured, although red flowers are sometimes seen. The flowers are sweet and have a slight mushroom flavour when steamed, fried or lightly cooked. When utilising flowers in dishes, it is essentially to remove the central part which is bitter.

The young leaves and shoots are also widely used in cooking and being a legume are rich in protein. Young pods are also eaten as a bean while small, juicy and tender.

From a 2 page Feature Article in Issue Thirty Four
The edible flowers can be white or red.
Specialist asian grocery stores are likely to have flowers for sale.
Leaves are rich in protein.
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THE PEANUT BUTTER FRUIT Bunchosia glandulifera

Barbara Beerling






On a recent trip to north Queensland, I visited many fruit tree collections and came across the Peanut Butter Fruit (Bunchosia glandulifera – often confused with the related B. argentea). This unusual tropical fruit shrub-tree bears fruits that really do remind people of peanut butter.

Characteristics of the Fruit
Bunchosia glandulifera is a plant in the acerola family, Malpighiaceae. It is believed to be originally native to Venezuela and Colombia but is now widely cultivated in northern South America.

This small shrubby tree grows between 2-5m tall and 2-3m wide depending on growing conditions and regular pruning which can maintain a more compact size.

It produces attractive sprays of buttercup yellow flowers in spring followed by orange to red fruit, carried two per stem, about the size of a large cherry during the mid to late summer.

Barbara also visits briefly:

  • Cultivation
  • Propagation
  • Pests and Diseases
  • Culinary Uses

A formula for How to make Fruit Leather is available also.

From a 2 page Feature Article in Issue Thirty Four
Peanut Butter Fruit.
Peanut Butter Fruit.
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Australian Native Capers Capparis

By the Queensland Bushfood Association (QBA)
John King



The Rainforest Plants Atlas for South East Queensland listed eight species of Capers for this region.

Capers can be sourced from vines, shrubs and trees and can grow from the coastal rainforests through to central Australia.

Early publications such as The Queensland Vascular Plants lists 19 specimens that belong in the family of Capparaceae occurring in every portion of the state. The book itself listed one species as ‘poorly known’ and one as ‘vulnerable’.

The flower buds of all Caper plants can be preserved as Capers, however bush food growers tend to only experiment with local species in their regions. For example people in the Bunya rainforest region are likely to come across Capparis velutina and C. arborea.

A recipe for Pickled Caper Buds is also available.

From a 2 page Feature Article in Issue Thirty Four
Caper White butterfly (Belenois java).
Flower of Capparis sp.
See link to the recipe below...
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